Ricciardo’s Le Mans debut


They say you should try everything in life once, except incest and Morris Dancing, so with that thought in mind I headed off to Le Mans last weekend to watch the CIK-FIA Karting World Championship, my first experience of the most basic and what some consider the purest form of motorsport.

It was a strange new world for me, but there were a couple of familiar faces, in the shape of FIA President Jean Todt, there to give out prizes and meet the people and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian was wearing a shirt bearing the logo “Ricciardo Kart” because the F1 star is also a kart constructor now. Other drivers have put their name to karts in order to capitalise on their reputation, but it seems that with Ricciardo, the involvement is much more hands on.

The European karting scene is a new experience for the Aussie as his own adventures in this grass roots sport were confined to his home country.

“I was always at race tracks at the weekend as my father was racing and then I saw go-karts for the first time, maybe on a documentary about Ayrton Senna and I thought I wanted to do that,” recalls Ricciardo. “We went to a rental place once but I was too short so I had to wait a bit and we went back and I loved it. I begged my parents to get me my own kart and my dad taught me the basics and some more experienced kart racers helped me from there.”


The Ricciardo Kart brand is produced in Italy, a stone’s throw from Monza, by the world famous Birel kart manufacturer.

“I raced with Birel as a junior and a friend of mine, Michael Patrizi also raced with them in Europe and he runs his own kart team in Australia. He came to last year’s Chinese GP with me and that’s where the idea came about and he convinced me to establish my own brand.

"I wanted to do it properly, and be a bit more involved than some other drivers who’ve put their name to a kart. Karting is where everyone starts, it’s the thing that gave me the opportunity to be where I am now, so having my own brand of kart is great and it makes me smile." (Tell us something that doesn’t make you smile Daniel!)

The obvious benefit of Ricciardo’s involvement ought to be his technical understanding of the highest level of motor sport, but the Aussie has adopted a cautious approach when it comes to sticking his oar in.

“I’d been away from karting for a while so the first time I went to see the Birel factory, I felt it was like my first day at work,” he confesses. “Now I understand it better and if I can bring something I’ve learned from Formula 1 or from the last ten years that’s good.

"I have followed the design process closely although at first, I left it all to the guys at Birel, but now after a year where we have a better understanding of where we are in terms of performance, maybe I can start to have more input.


“This has been the first time I’ve spent the whole race weekend with the team and it’s cool. Karting has grown so much since I was racing: even this transporter they have is bigger and better than the one I had racing in Formula 3. It’s like mini-Formula 1 and very professional.

"It’s very competitive, but it’s still fun, with a nice relaxed atmosphere and the drivers talk to one another. Karting today teaches you even more than it did when I was racing. You learn how to be professional, because even the teenagers are getting paid to race now, so you learn how to manage your life from an early age.”

The Ricciardo Kart team definitely liked having “the boss” with them, from the drivers keen to rub shoulders with an F1 star, to the engineer who was interested to discuss the technological side.


“I can’t believe karts have telemetry now,” Ricciardo admits. “That’s the most impressive change I’ve noticed. The data engineer is keen to see if he can learn something from Formula 1 and maybe this is an area where I can help the team. There are a lot of similarities between the two disciplines. Now, the youngsters going from karts to formula cars know so much more and it makes stepping up much easier.

"I’ve enjoyed talking to the drivers: a guy like Rick Dreesen (2014 European KZ Champion) is very experienced and successful and in a way I look up to him because he’s achieved so much more in karts than I did. He’s a professional kart racer and his opinions are interesting and then there are the youngsters who are maybe excited at seeing a Formula 1 driver here. Lots of them have been asking about the Ricciardo Karts so maybe we’ll sell a few!”

How did the Ricciardo Kart guys get on in the World Championship? They didn’t get to the podium: it seems there’s a theme to Daniel’s 2015 season, because just as in Formula 1, his kart guys have a great chassis, but are struggling on the engine front!


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